Eighteen months ago while I was still an official volunteer at the Baldwin Park Shelter, I tracked all the stray dog impounded at the shelter over the span of one week. Over that particular week only 12 percent of the strays impounded were reclaimed by their owners. The other 88 percent were held for their mandatory hold period and put up for adoption – and thankfully Baldwin Park’s staff and volunteers worked diligently to find homes or rescues for nearly all of these pets.
Naturally I wondered the origins of the unclaimed 88 percent. Nearly all of them must have at one time belonged to someone. Who were these anonymous “someones” who were littering pets on the shelter – and wouldn’t it be just if these people could be identified and had to pay fines for the burden they created on the shelter system as well as causing some pets to be euthanized?
Los Angeles County has adopted a mandatory microchip policy which, if rigorously enforced, would certainly increase the odds of finding the offending parties. But the reality is nearly fifty percent of all microchips traced by the shelters are associated with disconnected telephone numbers and addresses from which the registered owner had departed. It is my contention that in addition to the contact information for microchips, the registration should also include the adopter’s DMV information which is far more static.
If we can successfully lobby elected officials to pass legislation to assess significant fines against people who fail to come retrieve their pets from the shelter the number of unclaimed pets will drop exponentially. Someone facing several thousand dollars in fine for failing to come and get their pets is going to be strongly motivated to come and get their pet, the number of strays will be greatly reduced and shelter crowding will be significantly reduced.
Such a system is already in place in Italy and other European countries and they do not have anywhere near the shelter overcrowding that we in California do. To implement this would require strong and pragmatic leadership at the legislative level – yet another reason to elect Bobby Shriver to the Los Angeles County Board of Supervisors on June 3rd. Bobby Shriver will end the stagnation and poor decision making at the DACC by solving problems, rather than sweeping them under the table.